Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Integrating Courses

I went to watch Bill K to see that he did with his innovative grant for technology. Bill decided to teach a class called Robotics, which is taught as a computer science credit, although students are learning engineering, design and programming. Bill has taught computer science 20 for a number of years, and covers the essential content which adding vex materials. You can view Bill's prezi to get the basic idea of his presentation.

Bill's robots are like a combination of vex (think meccano) and a programmable brain. The brains have a programming module and a couple of processors, and can be programed in a variety of languages. As Bill talked about all the things that he could do with the robots and the students' problem-based learning, you could see why many students would be engaged in the process.

Bill's students get to take their robots beyond the classroom to Skills Canada. He said, "the student engagement level is much higher [than computer science]. They program it, then they see it in action."

In the 30 level, student will learn how to design and fabricate robots, adding electronics, welding, cutting, and other fabrication skills. Bill is excited about the fact that this class will integrate a series of skills for technically inclined students. As I watched the video of the students driving the robots they built in skills competitions for cheering crowds, I could see how an authentic audience really added to the student engagement.

Bill described how easy it is to retain students, who love the class. He describes himself as a co-learner or facilitator. He described a day when he was working with another teacher about what engagement looks like. Bill quickly opened his class, and his students were all in and working while he talked to the teacher. He realized anyone could look into the room and see engagement - busy students talking loudly, problem-solving and working with technology.

For the second half of the his session, Bill talked about how he has been conducting his assessment using wikis. Bill started by explaining the advantages to the site being open the public, and how he handled problems with inappropriate additions. He likes wikis because it is clear what each user contributes and students are accountable for their learning. You can view their wiki or their specific group work. Bill likes the fact that you can the history allows you to see what each person contributes. Because he uses negotiated assessment where students explain what they have learned and use evidence from the wiki to prove their contribution. He uses the comments for students to provide feedback for other students. Bill noted that students learn the most by commenting on each other's wikis.

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